New centre for research on literature and history of medicine in Wales

‘Dyn y Sidydd’ from Manuscript NLW 3026C (Mostyn 88), Gutun Owain from the second half of the 15th century. Copyright: National Library of Wales

‘Dyn y Sidydd’ from Manuscript NLW 3026C (Mostyn 88), Gutun Owain from the second half of the 15th century. Copyright: National Library of Wales

03 November 2022

Aberystwyth University academics are collaborating with the National Library of Wales to establish a new Research Centre to draw on the Library’s rich and varied collection of printed works relating to medicine and health in Wales.

TheResearch Centre for the Literature and History of Medicine in Wales will be launched at a one-day conference to be held at the National Library of Wales on Friday 11 November 2022.

The National Library of Wales is home to a substantial collection of Welsh and Welsh-interest printed works on medicine and health. The collection, which was established with sponsorship and support from the Wellcome Trust,encompasses over 6,500 individual items dating back to 1740.  It includes books on early medicines, herbal remedies, sanitary reports, accounts on contagious diseases, and asylum patient records.

Dr Bleddyn Owen Huws from theDepartment of Welsh and Celtic Studies at Aberystwyth University researches references to health and healing in the poetry of the Late Middle Ages.  He said:  “Establishing this Research Centre is a great opportunity to take advantage of the wealth of literary and historical resources and sources that are on our doorstep at the National Library, in order to bring experts in the fields of Welsh literature and history together and stimulate more work by experienced researchers and young researchers on aspects relating to health and medicine in Wales.”

Dr Steve Thompson fromthe University's Department of History and Welsh Historyconducts research on thehealth of the Welsh population in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.  Hesaid:As there is considerable interest in the history of health and medicine in Wales throughout the centuries we see that a number of research areas offer themselves to us, so that we can interpret the evidence found in archives and published studies in the form of books, papers and lectures. Our hope is to attract research students to work in this productive field.”

The programme for the one-day conference, which will see the launch of the new Research Centre, includes a video message from the Minister for Health and Social Services, Eluned Morgan MS.  There will also be presentations by Professor Anwen Jones, Pro Vice-Chancellor for the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at Aberystwyth University, and Pedr ap Llwyd, Chief Executive and Librarian at the National Library of Wales.

The programme also includes a number of short paperson different aspects of the work of the new Research Centre:

  • Charles Roberts – ‘Memory and Forgetting - the Spanish Flu': Researching the impact of the Pandemic in Welsh and London archives’
  • Dr T. Robin Chapman – ‘The product of affliction: a view of Daniel Owen’s Offrymau Neillduaeth (1879)’
  • Cadi Dafydd – ‘A study of mental illness in the north Wales quarrying areas between 1875-1914’
  • Dr Steve Thompson – ‘This is a scandal enough to make a man's blood boil': Doctors, patients and the Welsh language in asylums, 1880-1900’

The conference will be held in Welsh with simultaneous translation. There is no fee to attend and places can be booked through the National Library of Wales website, where the full programme can also be found.

The Research Centre for the Literature and History of Medicine in Wales is being established as part of the Manuscript and Book Network Partnershipbetween Aberystwyth University and the National Library of Wales.

Members of the National Library's staff are part of the Research Centre's working committee, and the collaboration between the two organisationshas been welcomed by Manon Foster Evans, Head of Published Content and Research Services at the Library:“We are extremely pleased to have this opportunity to collaborate with the University and to build on the great work carried out by the Wellcome Trust project to offer access to the Library's medical collections.  Through our role as a partner in the Centre the Library hopes that it will be possible to attract funding and new partners to support further research on the wealth of collections that can be found in the Library.”